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India joins Moscow format talks in Kazan as group focuses on rising ISIS threat, return of ‘extra-regional players’ in Afghanistan

The fifth meeting of the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan was held in Kazan on Friday

A miffed Russia has expressed its concerns about “attempts by extra-regional players to become more active in the Afghan direction” during the fifth meeting of the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan held in Kazan on Friday that was also attended by Amir Khan Mottaqi, the Acting head of the Afghanistan Foreign Ministry.

India’s Ambassador to Moscow Pavan Kapoor and senior officials of Iran, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan attended the meeting while representatives of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey were present as guests.

The ‘Kazan Declaration’ of the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan released late Friday evening also mentioned the parties’ concern on the difficult security situation in Afghanistan due to the intensification of the activities of terrorist groups, primarily ISIS.

The participating countries called on the current Afghan authorities to combat ISIS and urged them to take similar measures against all terrorist groups.

Most participating countries also emphasised their opposition to external support for terrorism in Afghanistan.

“We called on the current Afghan authorities to take effective measures to dismantle, eliminate and prevent the deployment of all types of terrorist groups based in Afghanistan and to prevent the emergence in the country of a hotbed of terrorism and instability in neighbouring countries of the region,” the declaration stated.

Introduced in 2017, Russia reckons the format as the most effective mechanism for promoting external support for an Afghan settlement. Its main objective remains to facilitate the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and secure peace in the country as soon as possible.

Last November, the fourth meeting of the Moscow format of consultations was held without any participation from the current Taliban regime in Kabul as the Kremlin was quite upset about no progress having been made to form an inclusive Afghan government reflecting the interests of all the ethno-political forces of the country.

On Friday, the participants once again “noted with regret” that despite the appointment of individual representatives of various Afghan nationalities to the Kabul administration, political pluralism is not much visible.

Meanwhile, in his address to the participants, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he “cannot help but note” that Moscow is concerned about attempts by extra-regional players to become more active in the Afghan direction.

He made it clear that a full-fledged unification of the efforts of the countries of the region with the member states of the NATO bloc is possible “only on the condition” that the latter fully acknowledge all responsibility for the “sad results” of their 20-year military presence in Afghanistan, which ended in a “complete fiasco”.

Lavrov mentioned that Washington’s blocking of Afghan banking holdings is “counterproductive” and only aggravates the situation, complicating the already difficult living conditions of ordinary Afghans.

“Under any circumstances, we consider the return of US and NATO military infrastructure to the territory of Afghanistan and its neighbouring states unacceptable, no matter what pretexts it is justified. We intend to be especially vigilant in this matter. We call on all partners in the Moscow format to do the same,” he warned.